The Mortal Storm
|The Mortal Storm|
|Directed by||Frank Borzage|
|Produced by||Frank Borzage
|Written by||Phyllis Bottome (novel)|
|Screenplay by||Claudine West
|Based on||The Mortal Storm (1938 novel)|
|Music by||Bronislau Kaper
|Cinematography||William H. Daniels
|Edited by||Elmo Veron|
|Running time||100 min.|
The Mortal Storm was one of the few directly anti-Nazi Hollywood films released before the American entry into World War II in December 1941. The film stars James Stewart as a German who refuses to join the rest of his small Bavarian town in supporting Nazism. He falls in love with Freya Roth (Margaret Sullavan), the daughter of a Junker mother and a "non-Aryan" father. The Mortal Storm was the last movie Sullavan and Stewart made together.
Freya and her father are implied to be Jews but the word "Jew" is never used, and they are only identified as "non-Aryans"; in addition, Freya's half brothers are all members of the Nazi Party. Though it is understood that the film is set in Germany, the name of the country is rarely mentioned except at the very beginning in a short text of introduction. MGM purposely did not mention the name of the country or the religion of Freya's family because of the large German market for its films, but it was to no avail—the movie infuriated the Nazi government and it led to all MGM films being banned in Germany.
The supporting cast includes Robert Young (a major romantic lead in many Hollywood films and later Jim Anderson on television's Father Knows Best, and the title role in Marcus Welby, MD), Robert Stack (The Untouchables, 1959–63), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel and the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz), Dan Dailey, Ward Bond (John Wayne's co-star in 23 films and one of director John Ford's favorite ensemble actors), Maria Ouspenskaya, William T. Orr, and Bonita Granville, who was the first actress to play Nancy Drew onscreen.
The score by award winning composer Bronislau Kaper and by Eugene Zador (who normally orchestrated) was not credited to them, but rather a pseudonym, "Edward Kane".
In 1933, Freya Roth (Margaret Sullavan) is a young German girl engaged to a Nazi party member (Robert Young). When she realizes the true nature of his political views, she breaks the engagement and turns her attention to anti-Nazi Martin Breitner (James Stewart). Her father is a professor, who does not abide by the attitude of the new regime towards scientific fact. His reluctance to conform to the racial theories that were favored by the regime leads at first to a boycott of his classes and eventually to his capture. He is imprisoned and made to work. His wife is permitted a five minute visit in which the professor urges her to take Freya and her younger brother and leave the country. He dies soon after.
Later, trying to flee the Nazi regime, Freya and Martin attempt to ski across the border to safety in Austria. Freya is gunned down by the Nazis (under reluctant orders from her ex-fiance, who has tried to spare her, but has been ordered to track her down by his superiors). Martin, at her request, picks her up and skis into Austria so she can die in a free country. When her step-brothers are informed of her fate, one expresses dissatisfaction that Breitner was able to escape and persist in free-thinking. The second step brother responds with the words, 'thank God'. There is an ensuing scene in which the dialogue is replayed from earlier in the film when the family was still united.
- Margaret Sullavan as Freya Roth
- James Stewart as Martin Breitner
- Robert Young as Fritz Marberg
- Frank Morgan as Prof. Viktor Roth
- Robert Stack as Otto von Rohn
- Bonita Granville as Elsa
- Irene Rich as Amelie Roth
- William T. Orr as Erich von Rohn
- Maria Ouspenskaya as Hilda Breitner
- Gene Reynolds as Rudi Roth
- Russell Hicks as Rector of University
- William Edmunds as Lehman, University Doorman
- Esther Dale as Marta, the Roths' Maid
- Dan Dailey as Holl, Youth Party Leader (billed as Dan Dailey, Jr.)
- Granville Bates as Prof. Berg
- Variety film review; June 12, 1940, page 14.
- Harrison's Reports film review; June 22, 1940, page 98.
- Turner Classic Movies: The Mortal Storm (notes)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Mortal Storm.|
- The Mortal Storm at the Internet Movie Database
- The Mortal Storm at AllMovie
- The Mortal Storm at the TCM Movie Database
- The Mortal Storm at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Review of The Mortal Storm in The New York Times (June 21, 1940)